For years, I chose anorexia.
When my friends expressed concern over my thin frame, I laughed off their worries and canceled on girls' night to avoid their questioning. I chose anorexia over friendships.
When the nutritionist told me that my extreme deficiencies were making it unlikely that I could become a mom, I told myself I didn't want kids anyways. I chose anorexia over my future family.
When the doctors warned me I was mere weeks away from heart failure, I canceled follow-up appointments to avoid hospitalization. I chose anorexia over my life.
But let me be clear: I did not choose to develop the disorder. After countless hours with doctors, therapists, nutritionists, ER nurses, and ward supervisors hashing out theories, I started to realize that my eating disorder was closely tied to my mother's suicide.
A brain in crisis will beg for relief. Mine craved an escape, hounding me until I gave it reprieve from the trauma. When I didn't eat, my brain didn't have the energy to process the Lifetime Original Movie that was my life.
I stopped craving the unconditional love and attention my life was missing after my mother's death and began only longing for the power that came from feeling like I was above basic human needs. I didn't choose the trauma or my psychological reaction to it. But once I began to feel a false sense of security — that taking control over my body meant having control over my mind — I was not about to let it go.
I chose anorexia.
Every day, I made choices that were consistent with my disorder. I wore layers of clothing that rounded out my pointy bones so as not to garner attention for my size. I avoided gatherings I knew would be centered around food. I chose to eat only eat an apple and seven baby carrots while working out twice per day.
When my friends confronted me, armed with printed WebMD pages and teary promises to support me as I fought this illness, I sat silent and stone-faced. The memory of the doctor predicting I had three months until I was hospitalized for organ failure was still fresh, but I found it in myself to nonchalantly tell my friends that this was none of their concern.
They say admitting you have a problem is half the solution. I say, it's a quarter, at best. Even if I wasn't letting my friends hold my hand and walk me to a 30-day program, I wasn't denying that I had anorexia. I just felt I would rather deal with a broken body than face the mental anguish of my broken family. So I told my friends I knew my body and habits better than they did, and I could choose to live how I wanted. More and more — as my 90-something-pound frame withered and my heart weakened — it became clear that I wasn't choosing how to live, I was choosing how I would die.
When I was just so beaten down emotionally from feeling ashamed for indulging in that eighth baby carrot, when I couldn't lift my body to get in my 90 minutes of exercise, when I couldn't understand the logic of trying to escape past trauma by taking up permanent residence in hell, I chose to get help.
I decided I didn't want to be anorexic anymore.
I sat down at the computer, a place where I normally searched for things like "does water have calories?" and "how to dull hunger pangs." But in that white box, I asked Google to help me find eating disorder support groups in my area. Seeing that those meetings did exist and people went to them, presumably without being dragged by well-intentioned friends, gave me the hope that others were also choosing not to be anorexic.
While living with anorexia for what felt like my whole life, I felt like I'd been cursed with a horrendous disorder. What I was actually cursed with was losing my mom at a young age and the hard, motherless life that followed her suicide. There wasn't a damn thing I could do about that, and I had every right to upset about it. But experiencing those feelings, not starving them, was the appropriate thing to do. I couldn't bring my mom back or recover those years I spent dealing with her death in unhealthy ways.
What I did have control over was my future. I could choose to be healthy and happy.
Making that choice didn't instantly rid me of anorexia. No, it was simply the first in a long line of choices that got me to the point of being able to say "I'm in recovery."
I chose to seek professional help because I knew I couldn't tackle it on my own. Then I chose to add a few crackers and cheese to my apple and carrot diet. I had to make the conscious effort on an hourly basis to choose to say "no" to anorexia and "yes" to taking my life back.
By simply saying that I had a choice, by telling my disorder I had a say in the matter, I put my future back in my own hands. Believing that anorexia was a choice is what gave me the courage to get into treatment and is what leads my recovery with confidence today. While developing the disorder wasn't a choice, recovery certainly is.
We are not powerless to anorexia.
My anorexia is not "cured," by any means. Each and every day, I need to make healthy choices. Only now, when I'm not battling other stresses in my life, it's in the back of my mind as opposed to the forefront.
If I am being fully honest, I have to admit that I still weigh myself every day and am occasionally reduced to tears when I see my fuller figure from the wrong angle, or in the wrong mood. There are even times I feel a guilty sense of accomplishment when my stomach rumbles with hunger.
Despite those moments of weakness, I choose to be healthy, for myself and for the family I am lucky enough to have. And that is a far greater accomplishment.